The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of the world’s poorest children to halt their educations and go to work to help support their families as schools have closed and parents’ incomes have vanished.
This is a catastrophic shift for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, undoing years of gains for education and against child labor, and undermining their prospects of climbing out of poverty, the New York Times reports.
Countless of promising students have had their educations cut short, and it remains unclear when schools will reopen. But even when they do, many of the children are unlikely to go back to the classroom.
Former students have been forced into heavy manual labor on construction or demolition sites, picking through garbage, doing sex work, mining for sand or working in factories. The problem is growing and with governments disrupted by the virus, enforcement is even less able to keep up and protect children from exploitation.
The longer children stay out of school and the more desperate their family circumstances, the less likely they are to go back. The United Nations estimates that 24 million children have dropped out for good because of the pandemic.
School closings around the world have affected well over one billion children. Many will continue to learn online or at home but hundreds of millions who come from the poorest families have no access to computers, the internet, or tutors.
Additionally, with hundreds of millions of people worldwide out of work, the cruel mathematics of the law of supply and demand come into play when struggling businesses take advantage of the glut of labor, driving down wages for those who still have jobs.
Poverty had been declining around the world for decades, particularly in Asia, allowing more children to remain in school. The pandemic has reversed that trend. As countries focus on reopening businesses to restart the economy, children’s advocates say schools have to be given more attention.
The Philippines’ Department of Education that has arbitrarily moved school opening from August 24 to October 5, 2020 has hopefully used that delay to be better prepared to fulfill its mandate of making education accessible to as many Filipino children as possible, even during this unprecedented pandemic.*